Asawin Suebsaeng

Asawin Suebsaeng

Reporter

Asawin Suebsaeng is a reporter at the Washington, DC, bureau of Mother Jones. He has also written for The American Prospect, the Bangkok Post, and Shoecomics.com.

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A graduate of Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Penn., Asawin came back to DC with hopes of putting his flimsy Creative Writing major, student newspaper tenure, and interest in human rights and political chicanery to some use. He started cutting his teeth at F&M's student-run weekly, The College Reporter, serving as editor in chief. He has interned at The American Prospect, been a reporter for the Bangkok Post, and scribbled for ShoeComics.com. His favorite movie is either Apocalypse Now or Pirahna 3D, depending on the day or mood.

Aaron Sorkin on "The Newsroom," the Huffington Post, and Journalism Screw-Ups

| Thu Aug. 22, 2013 6:00 AM EDT

Aaron Sorkin, left, and Jeff Daniels in Los Angeles

On Wednesday night, HBO and The New Republic hosted a special sneak peek of next Sunday's episode of The Newsroom in Washington, DC. The event was held just a couple blocks away from the White House at the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), the place where the de facto censorship board for American cinema conducts its business. The cocktail reception and subsequent screening were attended by a few lucky fans, some TNR staff (including editor Julia Ioffe), the Hill's gossip writer Judy Kurtz, and Chris Hughes, Facebook's cofounder and TNR editor in chief, among others. The evening concluded with a Q&A with Newsroom—and West Wing, and Sports Night—creator Aaron Sorkin, led by TNR literary editor Leon Wieseltier, a Newsroom consultant who has long been friendly with HBO (you might have seen him on The Sopranos that one time, for instance).

During the Q&A, Sorkin confirmed that HBO has now offered him the opportunity to make a third season of The Newsroom, and discussed a wide range of topics—his show, journalism, Hollywood, baseball, theater, and so forth. He offered up some begrudging praise for the New York Times ("I am scared to death of [them]," he said, referring to the Times' arts section), and some real-deal praise for playwrights such as Harold Pinter and David Mamet ("Mamet can write concertos of people saying nothing," Sorkin—himself a playwright—said).

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"Red Obsession" Portrays Wine as a High-Stakes Game of Power and Excess

| Wed Aug. 21, 2013 6:00 AM EDT

LION ROCK FILMS

Economics. Politics. Booze. Sex toys. That about sums up Red Obsession, a new documentary by David Roach and Warwick Ross about the rich history and present-day cultural significance of Bordeaux wine. Fastidiously grown and produced in southwestern France, Bordeaux has been a longtime obsession of celebrities, oenophiles, and wealthy imbibers—"beguiling kings, emperors, and dictators alike," notes narrator Russell Crowe.

The drama here centers on China's rising thirst for Bordeaux and the resulting surge in demand and price. We are treated to a rapturous display of power, cash, craving, and excess—set to a soundtrack that keeps things just hip enough. Red Obsession features engrossing interviews, from the French vintners so passionate about their traditions to one of China's most famous Bordeaux collectors—a sex-toy entrepreneur whose cellar is said to be worth more than $60 million. The right bottle can create a lot of excitement, notes one chateau exec. Ditto the film.

The Most Important Writing Tip the Late Elmore Leonard Ever Gave

| Tue Aug. 20, 2013 4:11 PM EDT

Elmore Leonard, in 1989.

The "Dickens of Detroit" is dead.

American novelist Elmore Leonard, 87, died Tuesday due to complications from a stroke he suffered last month. According to a brief statement on the author's website, Leonard died at home surrounded by family.

If you've been to the movies in the past five-and-a-half decades, chances are you've seen a movie (probably multiple times) based on one of his books or stories. Leonard wrote the basis for Out of Sight, one of director Steven Soderbergh's best films. He wrote Get Shorty, which became one of the better movies of the John Travolta career revival. His book Rum Punch was adapted into the Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown. His 1953 short story Three-Ten to Yuma was adapted into two films, one of which was inducted into the prestigious Criterion Collection. And his characters served as the basis for three television series, including ABC's Karen Sisco and FX's hit drama Justified.

N.J. Gov. Chris Christie Signs Ban on Gay Conversion Therapy

| Mon Aug. 19, 2013 5:16 PM EDT

On Monday, Christie signed a bill that prohibits licensed therapists from practicing "reparative therapy" on minors—controversial treatment that "fixes" gay teenagers by supposedly turning them straight. Here's Christie tweeting about it:

California became the first state in 2012. In June, the New Jersey legislation passed both houses of the state legislature with bipartisan support. "Government should tread carefully into this area, and I do so here reluctantly," Christie said. "However...I believe that exposing children to these health risks without clear evidence of benefits that outweigh these serious risks is not appropriate."

The governor has taken heat from LGBT rights activists before; he vetoed same-sex marriage legislation (vowing to do the same for the next one that came for his signature), and was harshly critical of the US Supreme Court's ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act last June. But on the issue of reparative therapy, Christie finds himself in the company of gay rights activists, as well as medical and scientific experts, who emphasize the damage (suicidal thoughts, severe depression) done by reparative therapy. This pseudoscientific practice can include the use of vomit-inducing drugs and electro-shock treatment aimed at ridding patients of non-heterosexual impulses and desires.

 

60 Years Later, CIA Admits Role in Iran Coup Everyone Knows It Orchestrated

| Mon Aug. 19, 2013 2:41 PM EDT

The Central Intelligence Agency, via declassified documents, has acknowledged its central role in the subversion of democracy in Iran. The coup took places six decades ago, so better late than never:

The newly declassified material is believed to contain the CIA's first public acknowledgment of its role in deposing democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad [Mossadegh] after he nationalized the country's oil industry. The move—and Iran's broader lurch to the left under [Mossadegh]—infuriated Great Britain and the United States, which pressed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi to depose him in 1953.

[...]

Mossadegh was sentenced to three years of solitary confinement in 1953 and remained under house arrest until his death in 1967. The U.S.-British plot to overthrow him served as a rallying point for the 1979 revolution that ousted the Shah, and Mossadegh remains a popular figure in Iran today despite his secularist politics.

For decades, it's been no secret—nor has it been at all ambiguous—that the CIA helped orchestrate the coup d'état. In fact, President Obama talked publicly about the CIA-backed coup during his widely covered 2009 speech in Cairo, Egypt: "For many years, Iran has defined itself in part by its opposition to my country, and there is indeed a tumultuous history between us," Obama said. "In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically-elected Iranian government. Since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has played a role in acts of hostage-taking and violence against U.S. troops and civilians. This history is well known."

Part of this well-known history includes CIA operatives bribing Iranian street thugs to riot against the elected government. Following the victory of coup leaders, a lot of pro-Mossadegh citizens were detained, tortured, and/or murdered. This was merely one episode in the long-running series of "CIA Does Messed-Up Thing Around The World."

The declassified material (you can read key excerpts here) were made available thanks to the efforts of the National Security Archive at George Washington University. The Archive also recently published, as a result of their public records request, CIA history on Area 51.

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